Sting operation should cut underage drinking
The state plans to begin a sting operation aimed at catching retailers who sell alcohol to minors.
STING operations that have sharply reduced sales of cigarettes to underage customers in Hawaii are planned for targeting illegal sales or transfer of alcoholic beverages to minors. The operation should be especially effective combined with an educational campaign launched in the past week by acting U.S. Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsuga in his native Hawaii.
The state Department of Health worked with police and the University of Hawaii Cancer Research Center in 1996 to test whether merchants were selling cigarettes to customers under the age of 18. The first sting operations showed that more than 20 percent of merchants violated the law, but that had been reduced to 5.2 percent by 2004.
A survey taken two years ago revealed that 16.7 percent of attempts by underage drinkers to buy alcohol were successful. More than 40 percent of the time, retailers did not request the buyer's proof of age. The survey found that the percentage of Hawaii children who find it easy to obtain alcohol rises from 19.5 percent of sixth-graders to 81.7 percent of high-school seniors.
While preventing children from smoking is important because of both the known health effects and the addictive aspect of tobacco, the damage that alcohol can cause to brain development at an early age is significant, according to new studies. The harm can occur as the brain develops past adolescence into a person's 20s, Moritsuga said.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona said young volunteers under the auspices of the Hawaii Partnership to Prevent Underage Drinking, which includes law enforcement agencies, will begin trying to buy booze from retailers in July. He said the operation will include "shoulder-taps," with the youngster asking an adult to buy alcohol for them.
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